Lights. Camera. Action.
These three famous words are associated with the film industry- an industry that is familiar to Hollywood and is establishing its presence down south in the Big Easy.
In August, Mayor C. Ray Nagin unveiled a plan to promote New Orleans as "Hollywood South," a project that is contingent upon helping the local economy with a booming film and video industry.
"Hollywood South is an initiative by the mayor to take advantage of things and immediate opportunities like the growth in the local film industry," said Ernest Collins, executive director of arts and entertainment for the City of New Orleans.
Collins said the "Hollywood South" project along with the cruise ship, medical and technology industries are part of four main sectors where the city is seeing rapid growth.
New Orleans has recently been the production homes for box office hits like "Runaway Jury" featuring Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman; "Mr. 3000," which stars Bernie Mac; and the highly anticipated "Ray," which is already garnering an Oscar buzz for its star, Jamie Foxx.
The state of Louisiana has grossed over $240 million in the production of films and various video projects within the last two years, with most of the productions taking place in the New Orleans area, according to Collins.
Collins accredits this to the passing of an "aggressive" set of tax initiatives that were passed in the Louisiana Legislature specifically for film and television.
The initiative calls for production companies to receive a 15 percent savings on their production budget by way of tax credits granted, which they can convert to cash and put it back to the production as well as other productions Collins said.
In addition, Collins said many production companies bring in already staffed workers for productions, but the reality is the city does not have enough skilled workers to fill positions in production.
"We are gearing up our workforce more [so that] more New Orleanians will be getting those jobs," he said.
Collins said it would be to the production company’s advantage if they hire workers here because an extra five percent savings for hiring local workers.
The new tax initiatives have also helped local talent agencies.
"The tax initiatives have caused the industry to explode!" said Timothee Hammond of Louisiana Casting, LLC. "We just think it is going to continue growing."
Hammond started Louisiana Casting with fellow University of New Orleans Graduate, Elizabeth Coulon in 2003. Together they run an online-registering casting call for extras for different movies being produced in the New Orleans area.
They have provided extras for "Ray," "The Skeleton Key," which features Kate Hudson and the upcoming "Glory Road" with Derek Luke and Tatyana Ali.
Angela Thomas, a junior theatre arts major who was cast as an extra in "The Skeleton Key," said she sees the mayor’s new initiative as something that will help her and other theatre majors to "hopefully get that one, big break."
Thomas said students who study in theatre and other media areas should be allowed to get the most consideration.
"I think that theatre students are people that want acting as a first priority should get first dibbs because this is more than their focus, this is what they are trying to do with their lives," she said.
The mayor is also calling for a chance to work with area schools to build training programs to help develop skilled workers for the film and video industries.
Collins said these programs are set to start by late October where students can receive internships, be able to shadow experienced workers and allow students to send in rÃ©sumÃ©s and be considered as talent to establish a closer relationship with colleges and universities when the production comes in.